Conversational Search is a new approach to the search experience that engages interactively with online users. Where keyword searches rely on giving results based on limited information, conversational search builds a fuller, more rounded picture of what the user is searching for.

What is Conversational Search?

Conversational search is an interactive search experience that leads to a more accurate end result by getting a better understanding of what the user really wants.

Google have enabled their AI to start analysing each new search term in the context of the user’s recent activity. Rather than starting from scratch with each new search, the algorithm now takes into account previous search keywords, to gain a fuller picture of the wider context of the user’s search. This helps the algorithm to better interpret the meaning behind any new search terms, to present more accurate, nuanced search results.

Misspellings or ambiguities are common in search terms, forcing the software to guess what the intended search really is. By building on a longer sequence of searches, the search engine can better judge the intended input and present a better range of results.

Voice search

The rise of voice search – through virtual assistants and mobile use – has played a big part in changing the nature of the search experience.

The way in which we speak is very different to how we write, so voice search leads to a more conversational interaction between humans and computers. This therefore changes the emphasis of the search. The inconsistency of grammatical patterns and the use of fillers makes the spoken language more difficult for computers to translate into output, so voice stacks need to be more nuanced in their interpretations of the query.

A more conversational approach, gleaning as much information as possible from a series of queries -as opposed to taking each keyword individually - will allow the search engine to filter the information more successfully and produce the most appropriate answer.

How can ecommerce merchants use the conversational search?

The benefits of the conversational search experience need not be limited to traditional search engines. Stores can use this concept to improve their customer journeys. By guiding customers to the best product for them through interaction and a personalised browsing experience, customer satisfaction is improved, along with sales figures.

You can adopt a conversational search function within your ecommerce store, allowing you to tailor the search results to the customer’s need. The result is a simplified, more streamlined customer journey.

Customers rarely enjoy the effort of browsing through a multitude of products, so by interacting with your customer to understand what their needs are, they can bypass this stage and instead reach what they are really looking for - the moment of discovery.

There are some great examples of brands who have implemented this into their stores. Trek Bikes, for example, has a bike finder tool that users can assess to help Trek identify the most appropriate bike for that customer. Particularly for a new customer who is unsure what they want, this interactive and beautifully presented process quickly filters the products through a few short steps. The result is a bespoke list of bikes that fit the spec the customer is looking for.

What does conversational search mean for keyword ranking?

Generally when typing into a Google search bar, users will limit their search to as few keywords as possible. Not only is it quicker to type, but the results are likely to be more accurate if search terms are kept to the basic elements – for example “paella recipe”, as opposed to “I want a recipe for paella”. The more words you include in a keyword search, the less results you will pull up, as each additional word will eliminate potential results that do not include it.

The opposite is true however with the conversational search, as explained by Matt Cutts from Google in a video. The nature of conversational search experience is that the more words you use, the more results you should get since the search engine has more information to work from.

From a marketer’s perspective, this means an approach to keywords may need to become more nuanced too. Keywords will continue to be central to ranking for the foreseeable, but marketers may need to consider the format of these search terms.

Whilst typing keywords into a search bar resembles giving commands to a machine, conversational search is more about communicating with a virtual assistant. It follows more natural speech patterns, and has an interactive element to it. As AI continues to evolve, its interactions with humans will evolve accordingly. Our job as marketers is to make sure our methods evolve too.